Will Trump’s wall on the border of Mexico really help with illegal immigration?

It’s the chant that brought Trump to presidency: “Build the wall! Build the wall! Build the wall!”

Trump Phoenix rally
President Donald Trump at a rally in Phoenix in 2016.

Throughout his campaign, Trump promised he was going to build a wall on the border of Mexico and the U.S. to prevent people from illegally immigrating to the United States. In Trump’s speech given on August 31, 2016 at a rally in Phoenix, he goes through many of the steps in his plan to prevent illegal immigration, which he claims is costing America “$113 billion dollars a year.” Immediately after Trump made his announcement about his wall, people questioned the need for one. A wall? What good would a wall do?

I decided to look deeper and see if a wall along the border of Mexico and America will actually prevent illegal immigration.

According to Christopher Manion, who served as staff firector of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs during the Reagan Administration, in an opinion article published on Breitbart, a wall will do a great deal in preventing illegal immigration. Manion claims many countries use walls to protect their borders. The article also uses individuals as examples to prove the effectiveness of walls. Many people in Mexico build walls around their property as well as “liberals” in America – famous people who want protection around their home. Despite all these claims, Manion cited no sources and offered no links within his column.

To see if Manion’s argument holds true, I Googled “countries with walls on their borders.” A CNN article cites a study performed by Ruben Andersson, who researches the migration and the effectiveness of walls across different countries. According to Andersson, walls are ineffective for many reasons. For one, walls are often built for political reasons to show the government is taking action against migration. Walls do more for a country’s appearance than actually prevent migration.

Fence along Spain and Morocco
The fence along the border of Spain and Morocco.

Andersson also states, “Where there’s a wall, there’s a way.” In other words, walls don’t stop people from climbing over and entering the country on the other side. The fence along Spain and Morrocco is a double fence with anti-climbing mesh and patrolled by guards. Even with this barrier, several thousands of migrants from Arab and African countries cross the fences each year. Fences can cause people to get creative and enter borders using more dramatic methods, such as collective “runs” at fences along borders. This method of entry occurred frequently in the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Mellilla in 2013 and 2014.

At this point, I went back to In the transcript of Trump’s speech I read. Published by LA Times, there were annotations throughout written by journalists of the publication as well as readers. I clicked on the annotation on “wall” and read that 650 miles of fencing already exist along the 2,000 mile stretch of the southwest border, according to LA Times reporter Cindy Carcamo. Carcamo said the 2,000 mile border has never been more secure with “hi-tech cameras, sensors and blimps. Also, never has there been more Border Patrol agents. Currently, there are an estimated 21,000 Border Patrol agents on the ground.”

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A graphic showing how many apprehensions there were in 2016 and at what point of the border.

I did not previously know there were already existing fences along the border of the U.S. and Mexico. To learn more about the walls already at the border, I found an article published in Time that goes into detail about where the 400,000 apprehensions of immigrants occurred at the border and what percentage of that location has wall. From what I could see, there was no correlation between the wall and the number of people who were apprehended at the border. According to Jason De León, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, as soon as security is increased on one place at the border, it’s a “balloon effect.” As soon as one area has increased security, the flow of people will move to another area.

While reading this article, I was reminded of a video I saw on Adam Ruins Everything, a fact-checking show on TruTV. The show said about 27% to 40% of undocumented immigrants enter the country via plane, making the wall useless in those scenarios. The upper left corner showed the fact came from Politifact in 2015. I turned to Google to find the source.

I easily found the article by typing “politifact undocumented immigration 2015” into Google. The article fact-checked the statistic after Jorge Ramos, a news anchor on Univision and Fusion, gave his argument for why a wall along the border of the U.S. and Mexico is a bad idea. Politifact found that 40% of undocumented immigrants enter the country legally and overstay their visa, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, only an estimated 27% of those enter by plane, which Politifact determined after speaking to many experts in the field. All of them could only offer educated guesses.

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A screenshot from Adam Ruins Everything depicting how illegal immigration has decreased in the past 30 years.

Adam Ruins Everything also said the number of people who are immigrating dropped within the last few years and is the lowest it has been in a while. The show cited they got the fact from Border Control statistics from 2015, but I could not find that source on Google. Instead, I found a Politifact article fact-checking Donald Trump’s claim that illegal immigration is the lowest it has been in 17 years. The article found that statement to be true. Immigration peaked in 2000 at 1.6 million people apprehended at the border that year. Immigration began to decline in 2008 when the recession hit and has been declining ever since. In March 2017, there were only 12,913 apprehensions at the border, which is the lowest number of apprehensions in 17 years.

Overall, most of the sources I found seemed to be against building the wall along the border of the U.S. and Mexico, or at least offered facts that supported not building the wall. Even when I searched for materials in support of the wall, it was hard to find ones that supported their arguments with facts. Though I can’t concretely fact check Trump’s statement that a wall will prevent illegal immigration because there is no wall to currently study, I gathered the general consensus of the American people to be that no, a wall will not work.

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Topics for final assignment

1) Trump’s wall along the border of America and Mexico will prevent drug smuggling

Wall around Mexico
Picture of a wall that may or may not represent what Trump want to build.

According to an article published by Breitbart, a wall along the border of the United States and Mexico will be beneficial. The article claims many countries surround their borders with walls and security, so it must do something. Additionally, famous people, including liberals like the Clintons, surround their homes with walls to keep others out. But will a wall across the border of Mexico and America actually work in keeping people from smuggling drugs or illegally immigrating? There are many forms of transportation people can use to get from Mexico to America. According to Adam Ruins Everything, a fact-checking show on truTV, people most often immigrate by plane, avoiding the wall altogether. I will look deeper into the current security at the border, how often people cross the border, and the effectiveness of walls in other countries.

2) A SNL video following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia mentioned there are independent, armed militias across the U.S. and there were plans for more white supremacy marches across America, including New York City.

SNL Charlottesville skit
Newscaster in SNL Charlottesville sketch talks about the white supremacist march.

Emotions were running high around the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. There were a lot of pictures, videos, and articles being shared about the march. It is very possible that someone shared that more marches were going to occur to be a troll or after hearing some sliver of information that may have suggested that. I also want to look deeper into independent militias across America to see if they exist, what their purpose is, and if they plan to take action soon, as the SNL video suggests.

3) Trump’s administration is spending a lot of money on inner cities

In mid-August, Trump claimed his administration is putting a lot of money into inner cities. According to FactCheck.org, that statement is false as there has been no change in the spending in inner cities. I would like to look into how much is government money currently being spent in inner cities and what revitalization projects are underway for some cities. I will also research inner city experts’ opinions on what resources are necessary to aid inner cities.

Fact Check #5: Do Hillary Clinton’s voters regret their choice?

An article published by Townhall, a conservative news website, claimed more voters regretted voting for Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton than President Trump. According to the article, 13% of Clinton voters said they would vote for someone else or not vote at all if given the opportunity. It cites a study that polls voters about many different issues.

I read through the statistics provided in the study and could not find the statistics regarding Clinton’s approval rating or voter regret. However, I did find that 52% of people polled disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president, which is not mentioned in the Townhall article.

The article embedded a tweet from Guy Benson, which states 13% of Clinton voters say they would vote for someone else or not at all, while only 9% of Trump voters regret their vote. According to his Twitter bio, Benson is a political editor for Townhall, where the news story is published, and is a contributor to Fox News, another left-leaning news source.

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Guy Benson, a political editor at Townhall and contributor at Fox News, tweets about Clinton voter regret.

I Googled “Hillary Clinton voter regret” and found a Washington Post article that said 15% of Clinton voters said they would vote for another candidate if the 2016 election was held again. However, the author does not say where they got that statistic from. The study they cite, which is conducted by the Washington Post, only polls people about Trump.

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Graph from Reuters Graphics regarding Trump’s voter regret post-election.

Another article that appeared on Google was from U.S. News, which claimed 12% of Trump voters would not vote for Trump if the 2016 election was held again – 7% said they don’t know what they would do, and 5% said they would support one of the other 2016 presidential candidates or not vote. These statistics were pulled from a poll Reuters Graphics did with their readers. While these statistics provide some insight, Reuters Graphics likely has an audience that is not representative of all of America.

I was not able to find any official studies that stated voter regret in Clinton’s voters. Several articles claimed about 13-15% of Clinton voters regretted their choice, but I could not find the origin of that number. The sources the articles linked to did not provide the information the article stated, nor could I find studies regarding Clinton voter regret on Google. With all this research, I question the accuracy of the statistic, and wonder if it’s a statistic that was published by an unreliable source that became “fact” as more people reported on it.

 

Fact Check #4: Comparing News Sources

Looking at articles across conservative, liberal, and mainstream news sources, what immediately stands out to me is the lack of coverage of the recent natural disasters. Left- or right-leaning news sources tend to cover controversial political happenings rather than general, fact-based news. While mainstream media covered Hurricane Maria and the earthquake in Mexico City, events that don’t create dispute, conservative and liberal media shared articles regarding Jimmy Kimmel’s outburst about healthcare in America, the changes with DACA, and news about Muslims.

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Liberal news source Alternet publishes story about Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue regarding healthcare in America.

The liberal and conservative news sites take an obvious stance with each of the issues in their articles. Headlines contain words that share the feelings of the author as well as the website. One article headline on Alternet states Kimmel “humiliates” Brian Kilmeade in his monologue, implying what Kimmel said in his monologue was right and Kilmeade was wrong.

On the other hand, the conservative website Real Clear Politics stated Kimmel “attacked” Senator Bill Cassidy and President Donald Trump. This insinuates Kimmel was too aggressive and wrong to approach the situation the way he did.

The obvious opinions of the authors and websites continue in the bodies of the articles. To further prove their point, liberal news sources only share quotes from Kimmel and do not include response quotes from Kilmeade. Conservative news sources share quotes from Kimmel and Kilmeade as well as insert tweets from people who disagreed with Kimmel.

The news surrounding Kimmel’s monologue is emotional. When formulating an opinion about the healthcare situation, it is important to do your own research regarding the healthcare happenings from credible, mainstream sources. Although Kimmel has strong opinions about the current healthcare situation, he is not an expert about healthcare in America.

Though the articles regarding Kimmel’s monologue on liberal and conservative news websites editorialize the situation, there is nothing in them that require fact checking. All the articles are relatively short and often include video evidence of quotes.

However, an article on conservative website Town Hall stated Hillary Clinton has a higher rate of voter regret than Trump and hyperlinked to a study. I could not find the statistics the article used within the document and think this is a claim that could use further research. To do this, I would turn to Google and search “Hillary Clinton approval rate” and search the articles presented.

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Conservative news source Townhall shares story about Hillary Clinton’s low approval rate.

This exercise was helpful in showing me how news sources present the same story differently depending on their own personal opinion. Next time I read an article, I will be sure to check where it is published and pay closer attention to editorializing.

Fact Check #3: Occupy Democrats

Occupy Democrats is a left-leaning website that publishes political news. According to Wikipedia, the website was created by twin bothers Omar Rivero and Rafael Rivero in 2012 “to provide a ‘counterbalance to the Republican Tea Party.” A recent survey among American readers determined Occupy Democrats to be one of the “least trusted news news sources” along with Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.

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Occupy Democrats Wikipedia page

In an interview with Huffington Post in 2016 – around the time of the presidential election – Omar and Rafael talked about their affinity for memes. In fact, that’s how the website got started. The brothers continue to make memes about political issues. The website’s use of memes does not show a lot of expertise in political reporting.

 

The writer of the Huffington Post article admired the work Omar and Rafael do, and felt they had a lot to contribute to journalism, though he admitted “it’s partisan at its core” and “not journalistic.”

I typed “occupy democrats propaganda” into Google and found a The Atlantic article that talked about the inaccuracy of all political leaning news sources. It directed me to a Buzzfeed article that analyzed the accuracy of news around the time of the election.

Buzzfeed determined 4% of Occupy Democrats’ posts were mostly false and 16% were a mixture of true and false. Mainstream, unbiased media, on the other hand, was found to have very few articles that stated false information.

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Graph from Buzzfeed’s analysis of accuracy for left-leaning news sources.

Given that the aim of Occupy Democrats is to spread democratic messages and ideas, it is not surprising they are an unreliable source. On Facebook, many people share posts from political affiliated websites like Occupy Democrats, and when scrolling through social media, it is very easy to read it and accept it as fact without looking any deeper. This shows just how important the publisher of information is, because it may not always be accurate.

Fact Check #2: Climate Change Controversy

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Article published on YourNewsWire.com

Climate change has always been a subject of controversy, but the discourse has become increasingly anti-climate change since the election, likely due to Donald Trump’s belief that climate change is a hoax. In September of 2016, YourNewsWire.com published an article that claimed “A staggering 30,000 American scientists have come forward confirming that man-made climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the elite in order to make money.” They argue that people like Al Gore continue to promote the hoax of climate change to profit off it. According to the article, Al Gore had $2 million in 2001, which increased to $100 million in 2016, a direct result of his investment in “green tech” companies.

No matter what their reasoning for anti-climate change was, I wanted to dig deeper to find out more about the 30,000 American scientists who agreed that climate change is false.

The YourNewsWire.com article often referred to an article written by Natural News, which also stated many of the same facts and ideas.

I wasn’t going to find anything of use to me by following YourNewsWire.com’s paper trail, so I turned to Google for assistance.

I typed “30,000” into Google and one of the first few options was “30,000 scientists climate change.” I first looked at Skeptical Science, which discussed the insignificance of the number 30,000 compared to 300 million Americans, which would only be .0001%. Additionally, since the 1970-71 school year, “10.6 million science graduates have gained qualifications consistent with the OISM polling criteria,” according to US Department of Education Digest of Education Statistics: 2008. Once again, 30,000 becomes such a small fraction, this time accounting for .3% of qualified people.

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A breakdown of the scientists’ areas of expertise in the Atmosphere, Earth, and Science category. Taken from Global Warming Petition Project.

But are the people who signed the petition qualified? According to the YourNewsWire.com article, the 30,000 signers are “scientists.” As it turns out, “scientists” is a broad term. According to an article in the Huffington Post, only .1% of signers have a background in climatology. The breakdown of petitioners’ areas of expertise shows only 3,805 have background in the broader category of Atmosphere, Earth, and Environment, which still only makes nearly 13% of signers. The rest of the scientists who don’t believe in climate change come from backgrounds in Computers and Math (935); Physics and Aerospace (5,812); Chemistry (4,822); Biochemistry, Biology, and Agriculture (2,695); Medicine (3,046); and General Engineering and General Science (10,012).

Although the 30,000 signers was accurate, the significance of the number and the expertise of the scientists was implied to be more important than it was.

Fact Check #1: Club 33 in Disneyland

On Facebook I saw an article published by Insider that shared secrets about a secret club at Disneyland in California, Club 33. Only special members are allowed in the building, and even the Club 33 website likes to keep secrets from the public.

Here are a few “facts” the article shared, and my research to see if they’re true.

1) Club 33 is located in New Orleans Square.

True. The location is shared on Club 33’s website.

2) Club 33 is the only place to buy alcohol in Disneyland.

True. This was also stated by Business Insider and Delish.

3) An old elevator acts as a booth after the elevator was no longer up to code. It was modeled after an elevator Disney really like in a hotel in New Orleans.

True. Backed up with photo evidence.

Club 33 elevator

4) Club 33 is named after its address and the number of sponsors Disney had when it first opened.

According to the Club 33 website, the official story Disney employees say is the name is only based upon the address.

5) Membership costs up to $100,000 annually, with a reported $12,500 to $30,000 in additional annual fees.

The true cost of membership is unknown to the public. The Club 33 website refuses to reveal how much membership costs, but it seems to be different depending on the type of membership. Business Insider and Delish claimed there is a hefty initiation fee as well as large annual fees. The problem with the Insider article is the wording. From what I’ve read, membership does not cost $100,000 annually, but it can cost that in initiation fees.